Both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police have been unable to explain a sharp drop in the number of prosecutions for disability hate crime.
The CPS released its annual hate crime report today, which shows the number of disability hate crimes referred to the CPS by police fell to 643 in 2011-12 from 690 the previous year.
The report has caused confusion within the CPS and among senior police officers, as official reports of disability hate crime are continuing to increase every year, partly due to greater efforts to encourage reporting of hate crimes by disabled people.
The report says that the number of completed disability hate crime prosecutions fell even more sharply than referrals, from 726 to 621, while the number of successful prosecutions also plunged, from 579 to 480, and the prosecution success rate fell from 79.8 per cent to 77.3 per cent. The worst regional conviction rate (at just 71 per cent) was in London.
The total number of hate crime cases referred to the CPS also fell, by five per cent, while the number of hate crime cases charged fell by three per cent, and the number and proportion of successful prosecutions also fell slightly.
Dale Simon, director of equality and diversity at the CPS, said she did not yet know why referrals and prosecutions had fallen.
She told Disability News Service: “It is the first time we have seen this happen. It is not for lack of commitment. If I had the answer I would be doing something right now to change it.”
But she added: “We can only deal with the cases referred to us [by the police].”
Simon said she would be meeting with those leading on hate crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and had contacted the chair of the cross-government hate crime strategy board to ask for a meeting to discuss the report’s findings “at the earliest opportunity”.
She said the figures had “nothing whatsoever” to do with the impact of spending cuts on the CPS.
She added: “Over the last two years, we have put significant resources into tackling disability hate crime, launching an innovative schools pack designed to tackle issues at the point attitudes are formed.
“We have also held workshops across the country for those that offer support services to people with disabilities and those workshops are set to continue.”
An ACPO spokeswoman said: “We do not know at this stage what the [reason for the] discrepancy is… between the number of referrals and the number of recorded hate crimes.”
She said they would discuss why hate crime referrals from the police were falling while recorded hate crime was rising when they met with the CPS.